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2017 Lexus ES Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Lexus ES was new.


Performance: 8.0

Shoppers looking for a tranquil ride, effortless steering, and a well-built powertrain will find what they're looking for in the 2017 Lexus ES. Without a doubt, this is no sport sedan, but for many buyers that won’t matter. It favors a smooth ride above all else. Fuel economy is impressive compared to similar competitors.

  • "If a serene ride and a quiet cabin are your idea of luxury, you'll find the new 2017 Lexus ES 350 luxury sedan and 300h hybrid-luxury sedan extremely satisfying." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The ES has no high-performance inclinations, so if you want a sporty near-luxury sedan, this isn't it." -- Edmunds (2016)
  • "…while the recently redesigned ES features more aggressive exterior styling than its predecessor, calling it a sports sedan would of course be a stretch. This front-wheel-drive, Camry-based cruiser is still focused on gliding over bumps and keeping the outside world at bay." -- Autotrader (2014)

Acceleration and Power

The 2017 ES comes with a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. According to the EPA, it delivers 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. That's great compared to other V6-powered luxury midsize cars. However, some hybrid rivals in the class are more efficient. Lexus also offers an ES Hybrid, which we review separately.

Overall, the ES provides a satisfying driver experience. The V6 engine is refined, providing both the power and the hushed snarl that instills confidence in this capable engine. There are three driving modes: Eco, Normal, or Sport. Eco mode provides better fuel economy but reduces throttle response. In Sport mode, transmission shifts are more aggressive, resulting in better power delivery.

  • "The 2017 Lexus ES 350 delivers a refined and comfortable driving experience, bolstered by a healthy V6 engine that's smooth and responsive." -- Edmunds
  • "For those who occasionally like to push the limits, the ES's Sport mode makes transmission shifts more aggressive, providing better performance for passing and merging … The powertrain is exceptionally smooth. However, when we switched to Eco mode, the throttle response was dulled and the powertrain felt uncertain." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The ES 350's tried-and-true V6 is a Toyota/Lexus mainstay, but it's still a fantastic engine, ready to emit a subdued growl when revved hard. Not typical ES driver behavior, of course, but it's good to know the performance is there." -- Autotrader (2016)

Handling and Braking

While many entrants in our ranking of luxury midsize cars skew sportier and sportier year after year, the Lexus ES finds its niche as a comfortable cruiser. Ride quality is top notch, and sound isolation is excellent. Recent improvements to the suspension result in an even better ride over previous model years.

Lexus also enhanced steering ability and stiffened the ES' frame. This helps it tackle corners better on twisting roads, but remember, the front-wheel-drive ES is by no means sporty. Steering requires very little effort, which comes in handy when parking. Steering is moderately predictable, but there's almost no road feedback.

  • "The ES 350 shines by taking the effort out of daily driving. Its steering is featherlight to lessen the load of low-speed maneuvering. And though it's still relatively accurate, it also effectively removes all sensation of connection to the road." -- Edmunds
  • "The 2016 ES remains a traditional luxury car with a creamy, tranquil ride, which is just how ES buyers like it -- and for good reason. With virtually every other manufacturer overusing the phrase 'fun to drive,' it's refreshing to drive a car that's all about making you feel as comfortable as possible." -- Autotrader (2016)
  • "Revised rear suspension geometry and improved shock absorber damping characteristics add up to enhanced ride comfort, Lexus says, while opposite-wound coil springs in the front suspension improve the car's straight-line stability. Meanwhile, a stiffer structure and revised steering ration (sic) help make the comfy cruiser a bit better of a dance partner on the backroads." -- Left Lane News (2015)

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